By Sharon Bouchard

Feature Writer / Photographer

NORWAY – The Opera House Block with its stately clock tower has been the centerpiece of Norway’s Main Street since 1894. The previous structure was ravaged by a fire in 1893 that swept Main Street and destroyed most of the downtown area, but a concerted effort by the town brought about the construction of the current brick block.

Over the years, the second floor was the social center of town-hosted plays, variety shows, graduations, town meetings and even operas. Throughout those years, the first floor was the retail center of town. That little strip of downtown Norway was a shopper’s delight for over 100 years.

Then catastrophe struck when a structural problem set off the sprinkler system. The water-damaged block suffered structural damage as a result casting the Opera House Block into darkness. It stayed dark for several years, shadowing the vibrant life that once existed on Main Street.

A more recent concerted effort by the town has brought new life and light to the historic district.

For the first holiday season in many years shoppers can once again find a variety of unusual and unique gift ideas in the shops located in the Opera House Block.

Gatherings, located at 400 Main Street, will surprise and delight shoppers with a large inventory of antiques, collectibles, reproductions, vintage jewelry, Maine-made jewelry and many other interesting and curious items.

Nellie Denison, the owner of Gatherings, said she is thrilled to be part of Main Street. “The people in the area have been very supportive,” said Denison.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with plans to extend the hours during the holiday season. Gatherings will host a holiday open house from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. There will be refreshments and prize drawings. Gift certificates are always an option at Gatherings. For more information, call 207-890-7788.

At 402 Main Street shoppers will find Fiber & Vine where crafters can choose fibers, yarns, patterns and accessories for their knitting, crocheting and other projects. Or, if there is a wine connoisseur on your gift list you have come to the right place. Fiber & Vine carries a large variety of wines.

Kim Hamlin, proprietor, is looking forward to kicking off the season with a “Holiday Wine Tasting” on Friday, Dec. 6. She is also excited about the other programs that Fiber & Vine has to offer.

“Currently we have classes in knitting and crochet,” said Hamlin. “And we do workshops for particular projects. I’m also planning to do a wine of the month club in the near future.”

You can contact Fiber & Vine at 207-739-2664. Gift certificates are available. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The next storefront in the Opera House Block is The Raven located at 406 Main Street. This is a small store with a big offering of eclectic items and is owned and operated by Darlene Dadian-Gray.

Shelves are lined with a beautiful display of gems, rocks, minerals, artifacts and antiques. Unique jewelry made by local artisans fill the jewelry case and a bookcase includes several books for children on gems and stones as well as a variety of metaphysical books for adults.

“We also host workshops for both children and adults,” said Dadian-Gray. “Fun with Fossils is for children ages five to 12 and our Wire-Wrapped Pendant workshop is available for adults.”

The Raven is opened Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The website is www.ravencollections.com and telephone number is 207-744-2018.

Rough & Tumble – The Studio Store is the last retailer in the Opera House Block located at 414 Main Street, but certainly not the least. The first thing shoppers will notice upon entering the store is the rich smell of leather from the large selection of quality handbags and backpacks that line the walls. There are over 80 models of the high-end products to choose from ranging in price from $38 to $350. The handbags and backpacks are designed in the store and stitched nearby.

Natasha Durham, director/designer of Rough & Tumble, currently has 17 full- and part-time employees. “We sell here in the studio as well as through dozens of wholesale stores from California to the Old Port,” said Durham. A”nd we sell internationally through our website. Susan Sarandon recently bought one of our handbags.”

Shoppers may choose from the inventory or be involved with a custom design by selecting style, leather, silk or canvas and hardware. Gift certificates make a wonderful Christmas gift from Rough & Tumble as does a lovely handbag. For more information, call 207-739-2186 or visit the website at www.roughandtumblebags.esty.com.

The old clock tower is no longer dark and Main Street is no longer cast in shadows. The historic Opera House is awash in the glow of exciting new stores giving a feeling of warmth to Main Street and providing more options for everyone’s Christmas shopping.


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